New research shows children, some as young as nine-months-old, with peanut allergies can successfully become desensitized to nuts by eating small doses of peanut protein.
To reduce the risk of life-threatening allergic reactions, researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have been studying the use of oral immunotherapy to reduce sensitivity to peanut proteins.
The published a new report that found the therapy to be 81 percent effective in preschool-aged children.
The latest news from around North Texas.
Only a handful of oral immunotherapy programs exist in Texas.
Medical City Dallas has been running its current program for eight years with high success, according to doctors.
The Larson Family of Houston has made 51 visits for their 12-year-old son Brendan's immunotherapy for food allergies, including peanuts.
"You always hear the stories of kids having terrible reactions and it's usually kids who are teenagers or early adults, so I really wanted him protected before he got to that age," said mom Katie Larson.
Dr. Stacy Silvers, of Allergy Partners of North Texas, started Brendan on small doses of peanut protein, in the form of peanut flour mixed with juice.
Over time, the dose of peanut increases.
"Over the course of weeks or months, we build them up to where they're eating 12 peanuts daily," said Silvers.
Silvers said 80 percent of the children who go through the months-long program build enough tolerance for peanuts that they no longer have allergic reactions to them.
The success echoes the results of the new published research.
"We have been starting kids age five and older in the program, but with this recent study that came out, in the very near future, we plan to start treating the younger kids," Silvers said.
Brendan has graduated from the program and is now in the maintenance phase, which includes daily consumption of Peanut M&M's, which helps him keep his tolerance to peanuts.
In a few weeks, Brendan will attend a birthday party, where he will eat birthday cake for the first time in his life.
"He's never eaten the cake at a birthday party. He's actually invited to a birthday party in a few weeks and it'll be the first time that he'll get to eat the cake at the party. Obviously, I'm tearing up thinking about that," said Katie.
"I'll be able to eat all these new foods," said Brendan. "It's going to be a whole new world."